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Cronos and his Children

 Envy and Reparation

 Mary Ashwin

[ Contents |Introduction |Chapter: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Conclusion | References ]

Chapter 3: Pathological Envy

Freud introduced his theory of penis envy in 1908 in his paper 'On the Sexual Theories of Children'. Today this notion is often linked with womb envy and vagina envy  (Kittay, 1984; Chiland, 1980; Tarpley,1993). It would be useful, I think, to differentiate between gender and sex. Sex is to do with structural biological differences and the behaviour which derive from these. Gender is about what it means to be male or female and covers a spectrum of behaviours and attributes.

            Gender is a sociological condition of symbolic meaning with a culture or society. Gender is not a set of sexual characteristics deriving from the structure of the human body. These characteristics are in fact aspects of gender symbolization. The penis stands for certain meanings within a culture, such as strength or reason. However, strength or reason do not derive from having a penis (Young-Eisendrath & Wiedemann 1987:13).

   As Feldman & de Paola (1994) observe, Freud was writing from a 'masculine-phallocentric vantage point' (p.219) and considered penis envy in a concrete and anatomical way. He ignored what the penis or phallus stand for - power, knowledge, creativity and so on. He  saw the woman's ability to create as a mere substitute for the envied penis. Shoeck (1966) obviously finds the importance attributed to the whole heated debate on gender envy exaggerated.

            To me it seems astonishing, however, that writers trained, or interested, in psychology should have allowed themselves to be so taken up with mutual envy between the sexes over a small anatomical feature as to pay not the slightest attention to the immeasurably greater role of envy in the totality of man's existence (pp.67-68).

As I said in the previous chapter we tend to envy what is different; it seems natural that there will be enviousness between the sexes. Certainly some women envy the power and thrust that some men can take for granted and some men envy the woman's capacity to produce children and nourish them, but to argue that they envy the actual organ they do not have seems to me to be a simplistic concrete view.1

    It was Melanie Klein who brought the attention of analytic circles to the importance and pervasiveness of envy in her paper 'Envy and Gratitude' delivered in 1955 at the Geneva conference. Though others before her had written about envy, her contribution was original in its conception and provided a basis for much analytic thinking today. In  Envy and Gratitude (published in 1957) Klein pays tribute to Abraham's and Freud's contributions as the foundations on which she is building her theory, particularly in relation to the life and  death instincts (pp.176-177). As the title suggests she is much concerned with dualities or opposites. She argues that the dualities inherent in life are present from, or even earlier, than birth; the sense of security in the womb is shattered by the trauma of birth which leads to persecutory anxiety and these conflicting sensations lead to the ambivalent relation to the mother, the splitting of good and bad. Since then her ideas have been evaluated, amplified and denounced, but I have not yet read a paper on envy, from whatever persuasion a writer comes, that does not start with acknowledgement to Klein for her seminal contribution. The paper caused a furore and led to the irrevocable theoretical break between Klein and Paula Heimann and Donald Winnicott both of whom had hitherto been stalwart supporters.  Grosskurth (1986) describes Winnicott at the conference sitting with his head in his hands muttering, "Oh no, she  can't do this!" (p.414).

   In Envy and Gratitude Klein posits that envy is innate, constitutional, and common to us all and that it originates with the infant's envy of the breast as the source of goodness. '... envy is an oral-sadistic and anal sadistic expression of destructive impulses, operative from the beginning of life...'(p.176). Inherent in her theory of infantile envy is her contention that primitive object relations exist from birth based on an intimate interaction between reality and phantasy. The infant arranges his object relations according to his desires or fears, in phantasy, in a wish-fulfilling or defensive way.  'Phantasy is the meeting ground and outcome of desires, anxieties and defences' (Segal, 1983:269).

   Klein makes the point that the innate conflict between love and hate, life and death instincts, lead, through experiencing both happiness and unavoidable frustrations, to the sense of losing and regaining the good object.  Everybody throughout their lives meets with setbacks, frustrations and painful  experiences which will arouse hatred and envy. How we cope with these vicissitudes varies enormously. 'This is one of the many reasons why the capacity for enjoyment, bound up with a feeling of gratitude for goodness received, differs vastly in  people'(Klein 1957:190).      

    With reasonably good early experiences infant envy is incorporated into the personality and does not promote psychological damage. These individuals do not suffer from the  destructive elements that undermine and attack any potential good outside themselves and, even more damaging, any good within themselves. Indeed, envy is a necessary part of our make-up. 'The nettle of envy provides the sting that drives him towards the top of the heap where our biology wants him' (Boris, 1994:151).

 

Greed.

   Although as was discussed in the preceding chapter greed and envy are often fused their basic characteristics are in opposition. Whereas greed wants to suck everything in, all the energy is directed outwards with envy, and often the envious  person cannot take anything in. So although envy comes from a  sense of inner void, its mechanism creates an even deeper and greater sense of loss and emptiness.

            At the unconscious level, greed aims primarily at completely scooping out, sucking dry, and devouring the breast: that is to say, its aim is destructive introjection; whereas envy not only seeks to rob in this way, but also to put badness... into the mother, and first of all into her breast, in order to spoil and destroy her (Klein,1957;181).

Infants evacuate whatever they do not want or need, they have an inherent tendency to get angry at the existence of pain within themselves and push it out angrily to devastate what has made them feel bad. 'Vengeful evacuation and malicious projection provide an operational definition of envy' (Berke,1989;58).

 

Projection.

   The conscious acknowledgement of envy does not necessarily mean it will easily become integrated with more positive aspects of the psyche, far from it, but consciousness can ameliorate it and allow for love and the wish for reparation.2  When envy is unconscious it is more likely to be projected; the envier who projects their envy is attempting  to rid themself of bad, destructive feelings and to purge their sense of shame and humilation that their uneasy, corrosive sense of 'not-having' produces.3  What the antennae of envy pick out and recognise is something that is lacking in the personality, it may not be 'good' in the moral sense, but it is something that is necessary for the personality to be whole; neither lop-sidedly positive nor negative. Often a person who is rigidly upright and has very high standards of behaviour will envy the one who goes through life with insouciance and a very liberal notion of ethics and morality. Then the paragon's unacknowledged, shadow aspects will be projected on to the scamp and he will be perceived by the envier as utterly evil.

   The envied one who feels that something has changed, that they are behaving in a way that does not feel entirely congruent with their usual state, even that they have been invaded, has become a receptacle for projective identification. They may well feel they behave in an inappropriate way towards the envier without having an understanding of what is happening .

   The envier though apparently having got rid of nasty stuff is, nevertheless, depleted by this loss; those invidious and abhorrent parts are theirs and without them they are diminished and feel even more empty and so the vicious circle goes on. Projective identification is both an implementation of envious desires as well as a defence against envy.4  

            When we project our destructiveness outwardly onto people, situations, things, we in some vital way are in a state of loss in psyche in that we have disowned the rich, vivid, stimulating, exciting and potentially creative and transforming aggressive parts of ourselves, our muck, sweat, stink, and horrible bits; the compost heap of psychic prima materia is in danger of being lost (Groom,1991:383).

   For healthy development the infant needs to split what is felt to be the good and bad parts of the mother; its  fragile ego at this point cannot cope with holding the two  simultaneously. Later he will be able to tolerate, with difficulty, that the mother is not entirely perfect. Klein (1946) called this the depressive position, and the earlier state of feeling acute persecutory anxiety with the resultant splitting, the paranoid-schizoid position. The flow between the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions is by no means irreversible and goes on, in a modified way, throughout life. A reasonably sane adult can feel quite mad when deep in envy. Things go wrong, we hit ourselves on sharp corners of furniture, traffic lights change to red as we approach them in a hurry and vital equipment develops problems. We wonder if it is our malign influence that is causing these occurrences, and we are vividly aware how serene and untroubled everybody else's lives are, or we believe that the universe is definitely persecutory.    The infant also needs to have taken in, introjected, the good parts of the mother in order to have a sense of his own goodness.

            '... it is one of the most important mechanisms used to build up  a secure personality through the experience of having good objects introjected and safely located inside, with the ensuing experience of an internal sense of goodness, or self-confidence and mental stability (Hinshelwood,1989:333).

When this development is disturbed by early dislocation in mother-child relationships the envy, that is inherent in us all, is triggered and becomes what Klein calls 'excessive'. Then a confusion arises as to what is good and what is bad because the good is turned into, or more accurately, perceived as bad by the spoiling nature of envy. A graphic example of this is Aesop's fable of the 'Fox and the Grapes'. 5

The confusion about what is good and bad means that the infant has difficulty in taking in anything good - love, attention, milk - because he feels they might be bad. In later life this can manifest in eating disorders, learning difficulties, relationship problems, deep dilemmas in making decisions and so on.

 

Splitting

The process of splitting off parts of the self and projecting them into objects is an

interesting and double edged phenomenon. It is of '... vital importance for normal

development as well as for abnormal object relations' (Klein,1946:9). Stein (1990) sums it up

well. She says that splitting is    

            ... the earliest defence against the death instinct, the struggle between the instincts is manifested in the war, between the loving, good part of the ego, identified and identifying with a single, whole, ideal object on the one hand, and the persecutors, which are the projected fragments of destructive impulses, themselves fragments  of a 'bad' ego, on the other hand (p.504).

So we find there is both splitting of objects and splitting of the ego. Initially it is of prime importance for healthy development and only occurs if there is a capacity to love and a relatively strong ego. If the process of splitting off unwanted parts of the ego is continued and repeated, because the ego is not strong and is vulnerable, it will be divided into smaller and smaller parts. Then there is the risk of disintegration and fragmentation  which leads to psychosis and the attendant fear of annihilation. It is as if a glass bowl has sustained a shock wave and has cracked into tiny particles. For the time being it remains intact but any jarring will cause it to fall into separate fragments.

   Klein (1957) notes the dichotomy that splitting is both necessary and potentially damaging; that primary splitting is, in fact, an integrating mechanism.

            My hypothesis is, therefore, that the capacity for love gives impetus both to integrating tendencies and to a  successful primal splitting between the loved and hated object. This sounds paradoxical. But since, as I said, integration is based on a strongly rooted good object that forms the core of the ego,  a  certain amount of splitting is essential for integration; for it preserves the good object and later on  enables the ego to synthesise the two aspects of it' (pp.191-2).

 

Evisceration

The problem with projecting parts of oneself outwards into others, however unacceptable they may be, is that the loss leaves a space, an emptiness which was, in fact, what stimulated the whole process. The consequent sense of depletion and loss of self can in extreme cases lead to severe distortions of identity. Burton (1621) describes the eviscerating quality of envy. 'It crucifies their souls, withers their bodies, makes them hollow-eyed, pale lean and ghastly to behold... As a moth gnaws a garment so... doth envy consume a man... to be a lean and pale carcass  quickened by a fiend' (p.265).

   Josephine Hart's novel Sin is a compelling study of envy.

Ruth, who is the narrator, has always been envious of her sister Elizabeth.

            Encouraged when small to  follow the sweetness of her behaviour - to imitate her many acts of generosity - I followed in cold envy the path she laid before me through the years. Like Satan before the Fall, I came to hate the very nature of her goodness, to fear its power (1992:11).

Through the years Ruth steals from Elizabeth articles of clothing, adornments, lingerie and secretly arrays herself in them until she seduces her  sister's husband whilst wearing them. Finally, after her sister's death, living with her sister's husband, she  has tried to metamorphose, adopting the style of clothes Elizabeth had favoured and wearing a blonde wig (rather stereotypically Hart makes Ruth a brunette and Elizabeth a blonde). She gazes at herself in a mirror. She has, she realises disintegrated; 'For I am neither Ruth nor Elizabeth. Just a reflection. Bits of me. Bits of her' (p.141).

 

Choices

Discrimination is at the heart of envy, there is a disposition for selectivity, a choosiness, but the skew that  blurs and spoils that is that the choice is not made in terms of 'What do I want?' but 'What would others want or choose?' This is because there is a 'dog in the manger' attitude of 'I'll stop you from getting what you want' and even more crucially, I think, because others' selectivity is bound to be more select. So the potentially positive essence of envy is devalued. Thus choices are desperately difficult, it is not easy to gauge what other people would want or need.  At the end of all the deliberation and weighing up, the choice is always  'wrong', another would inevitably have been 'better'. 'Those patients tormented by the existential dread of choice making are exemplars of the personality bound by the shackles  of either-or (Emery,1992:21).6

   In infantile terms the choice is between taking and enjoying the love and succour the breast brings  or angrily trying to 'own' it. Or, as Boris (1986) speculates, 'I can imagine an infant held to two amply  milky breasts - yet starving out of the pain of losing either, by choosing the one' (p.45).  Mrs W frequently laments that she is unable to  make decisions.  Often the difficulty is in the guise of wanting only to do what others want (it only she knew), but whenever or wherever there are still endless choices to be made, even about how to feel and react to  outside stimuli and  how to relate to her internal world.  In terms of her own life choices every one that has been made is felt to be wrong and it is wrong because she made it; if someone else had made the same decision everything would have been fine.  This is a  woman who has changed her country of abode, brought up a daughter on her own, has supported herself and her daughter financially.  The daughter is at university, has a relationship and is not taking drugs, and she herself has recently completed a degree course.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mother

The Mother as a concept or an archetype is usually depicted as endlessly bountiful life-giver. The  sine qua non of this munificence is her other aspect, the baleful, rapacious mother as typified by the Hindu Goddess Kali.7

   Klein (1952), Rosenthall (1963) and Williams (1972) write of the phallic mother, a bisexual figure who has everything.  Williams suggests that

            ... primary envy on the archetypal level is envy of the creative function of the mother archetype in her primary form as bisexual nature goddess.  To me, the breast as the first representative of this figure lends itself to a bisexual interpretation, being both soft and round and the nipple hard with erectile tissue when stimulated.  The envy of the creative has its counterpart in the fear of the deadly, devouring aspect of the mother archetype that is, of her envy of her creation and wish to re-incorporate it (Williams, 1972:7).

Klein saw it in terms of the father's penis being inside the mother or her breast, 'the parents fused inseparably in sexual intercourse'(p.79). Rosenthall writes of four patients whose  parents were in problematic marriages. He says that 'the parents suffer from envious excitement and that their marriages are  expressions of envious blockage  to contrasexual archetypal development' (p.73).8   He makes the point that one of the characteristics of the phallic mother is orgiastic excitement. 'The envious parents, whose excitement shows itself either in overt excited behaviour or in negative behaviour of an inhibited or controlling type, prevent the child from establishing stable relations with them, and thus from establishing a secure ego' (ibid).  Interestingly none of Rosenthall's four examples had experienced their parents as being unloving or rejecting.

   Of course the parent can be critical of their offspring for other reasons. I think it is very probable they have problematic envy to begin with, and it manifests as being critical of whatever the child produces; be it faeces, school work, careers or partners. It is controlling of the exuberance of the child and cynical about youthful naivete and enthusiasm. It seems that it is youth itself that is the trigger. It is particularly the critical, controlling parent which is internalised that leads to the over-severe superego, or rather as Berke (1989) comments, the envious superego, and leads to self-envy.

  

Self-Envy

Another route to self-envy is when the envier, in attempting to defend themself from their envy, splits and projects the envy into parts of their own mind and it exists as split off hostile representatives of parents or their own envious self. As a consequence of this defensive manoeuvre the envier is inhabited by many envious others all threatening to attack from within. Berke writes graphically of the state when the envier turns on himself. 

            In order to avoid such a psychic catastrophe, whereby  a host of inner enviers assault each other, the afflicted person may utilize projective processes to deflect these enmities outward. The net effect is like picking out a pack of piranhas and throwing them into the air. Because  of the action of projective identification, when these  vicious little enviers land on something, and they always  do, the envious person (fleeing from his own envious selves) inevitably converts elements of external reality (benign people, places, or things) into malevolent entities (witches, evil influences, bad omens). But instead of solving the problem this manoeuvre compounds  it, for the individual then feels threatened by malignity emanating from within himself and from without. Thus the envier becomes the envied and the hunter becomes the hunted (p.67).

In this state creative capacities will be hidden or denied to protect them from an envious attack from within. I would suggest that this results in the self-envying person forever feeling they are not living up to their potential but being unable to discover what that is. Cyril Connolly ( writing as Palinurus) describes it eloquently in describing ennui. 'Ennui is the condition of not fulfilling our potentialities; remorse of not having fulfilled them; anxiety of not being able to fulfil them, - but what are they?' (Connolly, 1944:76).

   Rafael Lopez-Corvo (1995) links the self-destructiveness of some artists with self-envy and suggests that 'The unconscious linkage between the symptom and the particular act of creation is produced by a mechanism of self-envy - the envy produced between an excluded part and a creative part of the self' (p. 10). He wonders about writers and artists who suffer from severe mental instability, those who go blind and  Beethoven who became deaf. He further argues that the self-envy can be so deadly as to kill certain eminent people as they reach the apotheosis of their dreams. He cites John Paul I who died after thirty-two days as Pope and a Brazilian  president, Tancredo Neves, who died on the eve of his inauguration. Both deaths seemed  medically inexplicable.

 

 

Thanatos

Envy, as Segal (1964) observes, 'is suffused with the death instinct. As it attacks the source of life, it may be considered to be the earliest direct externalization of the death instinct'(p 40). Freud first introduced his concept of the death instinct in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and wrote about its implacable resistance to progress in analysis in its absolute resolve to hold on to illness and suffering in 'Analysis Terminable and Interminable' (1937). In accordance with his classical leanings he often called the life and death instincts by the greek names - Eros and Thanatos. Whereas Thanatos is the god of death and no more, Eros is a more complex figure, and Freud seems to use the concept to denote both sex and life.9 It also means love. The Greeks had four words to differentiate between forms of love. Eros, which is a drive towards higher forms of relationship and creativeness; philia, friendship, agape or caritas, love devoted to the welfare of others and libido which is not just a sexual drive, but has a general meaning of desire, longing, urge.

    Whereas hate, destructiveness and malignancy are all expressions of the death instinct (as love, admiration and acknowledged need are of Eros) I think the  absolute  expression of the death instinct is apathy. The death instinct is rather like a black hole; it is a vacuum that sucks everything around it into itself and extinction. In terms of physics this is entropy.

   Love and hate are usually coupled as opposites. I suggest that apathy is a more precise polarity. Hate requires some energy and is therefore nearer to life than apathy which denotes an absence of energy. Love and hate are like a twin-sided coin, whereas love and apathy are poles apart. An infant who is consumed with hate has some chance of living, one who is entirely apathetic and passive is more likely not to survive.  Maizels (1985) links the death instinct with the phantasy of returning to the womb which poses great anxieties to the growing, active ego. 'Such anxiety... can only be moderated by the introjection of an object which is capable of creatively resolving the resultant conflicts'(p.191). Hinshelwood writes of the fusion of the death instinct and envy,

            The particular kind of fusion that is involved in envy is one in which the object is attacked as              a satisfaction of the death instinct, and at the same time as a defence against the experiencing              of envy by obliterating the the object that gives rise to envy (1989: 268).

 

Narcissism

Not only is envy closely entwined with the death instinct but also with narcissism. Segal (1983) suggests that they are two  sides of the same coin and that narcissism is a defence

against envy. Primary narcissism is the infant's feeling that he is the source of all satisfaction. The recognition that this is not so gives rise to anger and envy. Self-idealization involves the omnipotent phantasy that everything that is good externally is either part of himself or controlled by him.

            Since the narcissistic omnipotent organisation is an internal structure it operates not only against others, devaluing the object, but may also operate against the self, attacking and destroying any good experiences which are taken in, thus making it extremely difficult to build up sufficient internalised good objects to form a strong and containing ego.  This, once again, is a vicious circle since it is the lack of a containing environment in  the first place which stimulates the narcissistic parts of the personality to stage their take over bid (Coleman,1991:360).

Narcissism is often apparent in a person who has a grandiose and inflated sense of himself, their virtues and capabilities. This inflation is, in fact, to hide sense of inferiority and unworthiness; both narcissism and envy are about an overwhelming sense of inferiority and inadequacy.

   In self-envy everything that is done is attacked by the envious part and declared not good enough but the narcissistic element has an inflated sense of what is good so the individual oscillates from perceiving their achievements either with deep criticism or an over-exaggeration of its worth. The acute deflation swings to an equally unrealistic inflation. Interestingly the discrimination, which is such a central part of envy, fails the envious entirely in this respect.

   Rosenfeld (1971) suggests that when the death instinct and, what he termed negative narcissism, are operating within the personality it is as if the good parts are dominated by the bad, and the bad feel so firmly entrenched as to be like a Mafia gang with its tentacles in all parts of society.

   One of the difficulties experienced by the envious person in coming to understand himself in therapy is his fear and dislike of dependency. The myth tells us that Narcissus seeing his reflection fell in love with himself.  He tried to become his own other and died in the attempt, deprived of emotional and physical nurturing. 'To remain Narcissus means insisting that there are no meaningful others and this cannot be maintained without delusion. The delusion is given up at the price of being threatened with the awareness of death and of the wish to kill off others' (Shengold,1994:628).

   The fear of dependence is, I think, at the heart of the process in the therapy of an envious person. It is axiomatic that there will be some dependency of the patient on the therapist; how strong this will be will depend on the degree of regression and the quality of the therapeutic relationship. The narcissistic person finds any kind of dependence hard. 'In terms of the infantile situation the narcissistic patient wants to believe that he has given life to himself and is able to feed and look after himself' (Rosenfeld,1971;173). Dependence will be resisted.  Mrs W. often speaks of wanting to do things by herself; any help from outside is viewed with deep suspicion. This particularly applies to mine but any suggestion of this is hotly denied. She expresses a need to be self sufficient, though at the same time she can be demanding and speaks of needing to be held by the hand through the pitfall- ridden path she feels she is taking.

   As Rosenfeld notes, awareness of separation leads to feelings of dependence and this in term to unease; it also initiates envy when the goodness of the therapist or another is recognized. He identifies the mechanisms involved;

            ... the projective and introjective identification of self and object,... act as a defence against any recognition of separateness between the self and objects.  Awareness of separation immediately leads to feelings of dependence on an object and therefore to inevitable frustrations. However, dependence also stimulates envy, when the goodness of the object is recognized. Aggressiveness towards objects therefore seems inevitable  in giving up the narcissistic position and it appears that the strength and persistence of omnipotent narcissistic object relations is closely related to the strength of the envious destructive impulses (p.172).

I wonder if there is, in the fear of dependence, also a terror of losing the good object. It feels better not to allow or acknowledge need and dependence on the therapist or anyone else in case the support, the relationship it affords is withdrawn and that would be worse than not having it in the first place. Mrs. W has recently entered into a relationship with a  man, not having had a stable one that was not shared with another woman for many years. She is terrified of losing it, although, as she says, she has lived without a relationship for years, but now cannot imagine how she would cope. She constantly imagines how it will be, how awful the anguish when it finishes. Before she would hasten the end of friendships to reduce the intolerable tension of awaiting the supposed inevitability of the break. The breaks that occur in therapy due to my holidays are anticipated with dread and resentment of my choosing just the worst time for her. Although she says 'I know you will come back', this knowledge has not yet filtered down into her understanding. She tells herself this is so; she does not trust this is so.

   Envy is anti-life, anti-growth, anti-creativity, deadly in its corrosiveness, implacable in its refusal to allow any means of recovery. One of its more insidious attacks is on memory; memory of good experiences, good sessions, useful knowledge. This can lead to learning difficulties. Some children for no apparent reason find it very hard to absorb and retain what they are being taught. A student reported that when having a seminar with a respected tutor he was often  struck by the cogency of his ideas and elegance of language but seconds later was entirely unable to remember the form or the meaning of what had been  said.  Sometimes  he could remember a part of the idea but was unable to reconstruct it for himself. He was particularly aggrieved by this as he was aware of his envious impulses but felt helpless in their clutches.

   Bion in his paper 'Attacks on Linking' comments on the infant's or patient's need for projective identification and the envy and hostility that is engendered when the mother or therapist is able to introject the attack without damage to themselves. He says,

            Denial of the use of this mechanism [projective identification], either by the refusal of the mother to serve as a repository for the infant's feelings, or by the hatred and envy of the patient who cannot allow the mother to exercise this function, leads to a destruction of the link between infant and breast and consequently to a severe disorder of the impulse to be curious on which all learning depends (my italics. Bion,1959;98).

A friend commented on her envy, 'As soon as I understand something when I'm reading - or when I'm writing -  as soon as its flowing I stop. It seems as if the next paragraph would be more clarifying - and then what?' She said that it was closing down on curiosity or knowledge.10

   Another manifestation is bravado and deliberate philistinism wonderfully exemplified by Marlowe. 'I am Envy ... I cannot read and therefore wish all books burn'd. I am lean with seeing others eat: O that there would come a famine over all the world, that all might die and I live alone; then thou shouds't see how fat I'd be. (Act II sc.2 l.130f).

   Psychotherapy is a learning process. The deeply envious person is loathe to take anything in, either because they feel it (words, ideas, stimuli, affection) will poison them or because to take something in is to accept, to receive and the ability to receive and acknowledge what has been given is the basis for gratitude. The confusion between what is nurturing and what is noxious arises when the fundamental normal splitting between good and bad, love and hate has not been effected. Confusion can lead to delusional states, to problems in learning and, as with Mrs W. a problem in making  decisions. We will explore the difficulties that arise in encounters with envious patients in sessions in the next chapter. 

 



 

1.  The feminist Gloria Steinem speculates in her essay ‘If Men Could Menstruate’ (1987), on how menstruation would be viewed.  She suggests that it would become an enviable masculine event, that there would be much bragging about how long and how much, and for young boys it would be seen as the envied initiation into the beginning of manhood.

2.  See 'Varieties of Envious Experience by Elizabeth Bott Spillius (1993) for an examination of a particular kind of conscious envy which she calls impenitent envy  and the more familiar form typified by Klein (1957) which she labels as ego-dystonic envy.

   She makes the point that whereas the ego-dystonic type  will have the same, or potentially, the same definition  of envy as the analyst, i.e. a destructive attack on a good object, the impenitent envier will feel it is the envied person's fault that he (the envier) feels the way  he does - aggrieved  and wretched.

5.  A hungry fox saw some succulent grapes hanging over a wall. Try as he might he could not reach them . Eventually, weary of his labours, he turned away  muttering to  himself, 'Well, I  didn't really want them, they  were sour anyway'. He went on his way  even more hungry than before.

6. If the  'either -or' model is accepted, etymologically to decide comes from the latin root cedere to kill.  So making a decision is an existential choice; what ever is not chosen is killed off for us.

 

7. The Divine Mother in Hindu religion has four aspects, four being a universal symbol of wholeness. She is the personification of calm plenitude, comprehensive wisdom and infinite compassion. She also has inexhaustible energy and passion, crushing will and executing arbitrary interventions. The third aspect is ardent and gentle; has  charm, grace and total at-oneness with the rhythms of the universe and the last a penetrating capacity to intimate knowledge and calm precision. She is both the beautiful young  Parvati who sits by her husband Shiva and talks of metaphysics and love and Kali who is depicted as dishevelled, wild-eyed and brandishing  a bloodstained knife. She has a necklet of human heads.

10.  Not asking questions can be to do with not showing there is a lack of knowledge. Or as it displays an interest in the other, it suggests a link. As Bion said attacks on linking are a mechanism of envy.

     Parsifal, when taken to the Castle of the Grail, is entertained by the  endlessly suffering Fisher King and witnesses fabulous occurrences. He asks neither about the sights he has seen nor about his host's well-being and for that omission loses his chance to succeed in his quest for the Grail. A chilling fable for the envious.

 


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